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Vocational Curriculum for Collège Pupils

Tuesday 10 September 2019

A new vocational stream has been created for lower secondary school pupils in France.

With the autumn school term in France having now started, some returning pupils will be offered a stronger vocational stream.

The new stream will be available on a voluntary basis to those pupils in their final year of collège – lower secondary/elementary school - at the age of 14/15 years.

It has been given the cryptic title 'prépa-métiers', replacing the similarly obscure 'prépa-pro', a previous incarnation.

As the name suggests, the aim of the new stream is to provide pupils with preparatory skills for a trade or agricultural professional activity, with the government stating the objective as:

«faire découvrir aux élèves un ensemble d’environnements professionnels et de les accompagner dans la poursuite de l’élaboration de leur projet d’orientation, en particulier vers la voie professionnelle sous statut scolaire ou par apprentisage»

Those opting for the stream will have a different curriculum in their final year of collège to those of others in their year, contrary to prépa-pro, which have simply added vocational training onto the existing curriculum.

The main elements of the stream are:

  • Additional class time devoted to the French language and mathematics;
  • Some subjects (arts, history-geography and sciences) will have a reduced class time, in line with the wishes of the government that priority is given to teaching pupils the ‘fundamentals’;
  • Pupils will have a week of internship (which all collège pupils undertake), to which may be added up to 4 weeks of internships in work placements, vocational high schools or an apprentice centre;
  • There will be 5 hours of découverte professionnelle each week, giving a total 30 hours of schooling and vocational training each week. The previous scheme required pupils to attend 32 hours of classes each week.
  • Pupils will continue to take the final collège examination, either the vocational brevet (série professionnelle) or certificat de formation générale.

In practice, the vast majority of classes for those taking the vocational stream take place in a local vocational lycée professionnel as most schools are unable to resource it.

That has led many commentators to consider that all the government is seeking to do is remove difficult or failing pupils from their school environment by handing them over to the lycées.

Nevertheless, pupils who later consider they have made the wrong choice, are able to return to their collège if that is their wish.

Many critics also consider that not a great deal has changed with this new initiative, apart from changes to the curriculum and a stronger requirement for lower and upper secondary schools to work more closely together to ensure the scheme is a success. No additional resources have been provided.

The main teachers union the SNUEP-FSU, has always been opposed to early vocational orientation in learning, arguing that the classes merely reinforce pupils' difficulties, as most are unlikely to find employment at the end of their studies. They consider that the priority should be to give more personalised tuition to failing pupils.

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